LMH cancer facility plans expansion, seeks donor support

The LMH Health Cancer Center has begun to outgrow its space at the hospital’s Maine Street location, and a fundraising campaign is seeking to raise $2.5 million in philanthropic support for the center’s renovation and expansion.

Since the center opened its doors in 2000 as the LMH Oncology and Hematology Center, demand for cancer-related services at the hospital has grown dramatically, said Dr. Sherri Soule, an oncologist at LMH Health.

“Our cancer center has seen incredible growth, which has led to opportunity for expansion,” she said. “It is critical to the people we serve that we find a way to expand and update the cancer center while remaining at our main location; studies show that patients have better outcomes when treated close to home.”

The LMH Health Foundation began its major fundraising initiative for the center’s expansion earlier this year and has $1.6 million in donor support so far, according to Rebecca Smith, LMH Health Foundation executive director and LMH Health vice president of strategic communications.

Hospital leadership plans to begin the project within the next two years, and Smith said the total cost of the project would likely be in the range of $7 million to $10 million. However, she said the foundation’s goal right now was to test the waters and see how donors responded.

“As a matter of both practicality and financial responsibility, we must test our fundraising response before defining the full scope of the project,” she said. “This is why gifts from our donors are so important and meaningful for this critical initiative.”

Smith said that “the final scope of the cancer center’s renovations and expansion will depend on the financial support” that the campaign is able to raise. But whatever the campaign ends up raising, the renovation’s main goal will be to provide more physical space, both for patient care and for services like the survivorship program, genetic testing, social work, nurse navigation and financial counseling.

In 2020, the LMH Health Cancer Center had more than 15,600 patient interactions. Dr. Jodi Palmer, an oncologist at LMH Health, said she thought the cancer center’s physical environment should be focused on making patients and their families comfortable.

“We want to always provide an environment that is pleasant, low stress and conducive to healing throughout the entire cancer journey,” Palmer said. “We currently have an excellent facility, but the needs of our patients have outgrown our space.”

The center’s services

Oncologists and hematologists at the LMH Health Cancer Center treat a wide range of cancers — not only solid tumors, but also hematological cancers and benign blood disorders.

LMH leadership and doctors also said that one of the most important features of the cancer center is its convenience: that patients can receive care without having to travel far from home.

“The LMH Health Cancer Center provides the finest care, close to home,” said Russ Johnson, LMH Health president and CEO. He said that LMH’s cancer care includes more than just medical treatments, but also support, survivorship and prevention resources.

Another area of focus for the center is clinical trials. The hospital is a member of the Masonic Cancer Alliance, which provides patients access to clinical trials. Currently, the center offers 50 trials for cancer patients.

“Too often, cancer patients have to travel far from home to participate in clinical trials,” Soule said. “Our partnership with the MCA brings access to those trials closer to home.”

In 2020, the LMH Health Cancer Center earned accreditation from the Commission on Cancer, which is given to institutions that demonstrate a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases. The accreditation process involves two years of monitoring the protocols, treatments and outcomes in LMH Health’s cancer care units. According to the American Cancer Society, 25% of U.S. hospitals have this accreditation, and eleven other hospitals in Kansas have it.

“There has always been a fantastic team providing care to cancer patients in Lawrence, Kansas, but this represents a major milestone for our hospital,” said Dr. Chad Tate, a surgeon at LMH Health and chairman of the cancer committee that sought accreditation. “This accreditation provides tremendous resources for our cancer patients and their providers. It also demands that we continue to meet rigorous quality standards for our care.”

Generous philanthropic support has helped strengthen the LMH Health Cancer Center over the years. Recently, donors have made a new cancer survivorship program possible and have bolstered funding to charitable care.

“The community stands behind LMH Health,” said Dr. Jodie Barr, an oncologist at LMH Health. “We are who we are because the community supports this hospital, and we are able to take care of everyone.”

Smith urged donors to show their support for the center’s expansion project, as well.

“As a not-for-profit, safety-net community hospital that treats all who come in need — regardless of ability to pay — philanthropic support will play a critical role in turning this vision into a reality,” Smith said.

— Courtney Bernard is the development coordinator for the LMH Health Foundation. LMH Health is a major sponsor of the Journal-World’s Health section.


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